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Showing posts from January, 2014

Redemption (2013)

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So, imagine that Jason Statham wants to do a movie with a little more heart.

"Wait - a little more heart than Crank 2 - High Voltage?"

If it's possible, yes.

Our hero starts as a homeless guy. He is a vet who has lost his way, so he has been living on the streets where some thugs routinely extort money. Extorting Statham, in pretty much any of his movies, is a terrible, terrible idea. Needless to say, bad things happen to the bad guys.

But what happens to our hero? Well, he stumbles into good fortune. Rather, he manages to find a place that is rented by a guy who won't be there for a good long while, and he partially assumes his identity. As a result, he has an income from stealing from ATMs, a nice apartment, and a nice car.

From here, he manages to get a job hurting people for a mob boss. He does it a lot, and he seemingly enjoys it. He also makes a good income from it. He then takes that income and tries to buy his soul back by giving food and money to the homeles…

Paranoia (2013)

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This is a movie about a business power struggle. It was written by someone in Hollywood who considers himself a screen writer, so he has absolutely no actual understanding of business or the internal struggles of it. So, this is all set up to go well, am I right?

Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors. He can play pretty much any damn role you give him. In this, he plays an angry, vengeful business tycoon whose mentor has a distinct business advantage, and Gary is desperate to save his company and destroy his old friend.

To that end, he blackmails Liam Hemsworth, who plays a young up-and-comer who has made a few bad choices in life, into working for this other company to get info about a secret security technology that will allow anyone to spy on any phone anywhere. The tech, incidentally, is not really the point of the story. That's good, because we all know that there's no way any technology like that actually exists.

And there's the victim in this game, played by a ma…

The Fifth Estate (2013)

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I really wanted to like this movie. I remember in the pre-Snowden days, when WikiLeaks was the big story, and there was a lot of debate and outrage over what WikiLeaks and their odd leader Julian Assange did. I wanted to really like this movie.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantastic actor. He embraced this role wholeheartedly, and he even managed the queer accent that Assange sports in real life. He commits to the role with its bucketloads of emotional twists and turns. He's forced to run the gamut, and he runs like a madman. I remember hearing that Benedict was going to play this part and he consequently went to try and see Julian, but he was rejected with a line about how he shouldn't play the role, as he was just going to be a pawn for the slander campaign against Assange.

He is flanked by Daniel Brühl, who I last remember seeing in Rush. He did a very good job there, and he does a good job here, too. His character is supposed to be the emotional counterpart to Julian's ro…

Drinking Buddies (2013)

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This movie is about people who make beer and the people who love them. Unlike the Beer Wars movie, I hope this is a better synergy of my two blog-a-riffic things - beer and movies.

Turns out, this movie isn't really about making beer. They mention wort, and they show some barrels, talk about putting beer in cans, and show us lots of vats, but they don't actually seem to make much beer. Jake Johnson is the guy who plays the only actual brewer in this movie, and we don't actually see him do a whole lot of brewing. His acting was decent enough, but his character feels like it's background for what is going on.

Anna Kendrick plays the brewer's fiancée, and she has a more prominent role. it's possible I was thrown off by Jake's beard, as it makes it hard to read his emotion. Anna was a virtual open book. She almost exaggerated all of her feelings a bit too much.

The real focus of the movie is the power couple of Olivia Wilde and Ron Livingston. Really, they are…

Captain Phillips (2013)

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This was touted as one of the best movies of 2013.
Tom Hanks has won two Academy Awards.
This movie has Navy Seals acting as snipers.

So, yes, you could say I was looking forward to this movie.

Tom is supposed to be from Boston, and he does a mild Bostonian accent for this role. Unlike many other actors, Tom can really do a regional accent well. Furthermore, he has a talent which I would call... acting ability. It more rare than you might expect, with all the Michael Rapaports and Hayden Christensens out there. Here, he plays the captain of a container ship that gets attacked by Somali pirates, and he has to try to save his crew however he can.

Barkhad Abdi plays the captain of the pirate boat. He does a convincing enough job - and he got a nomination for an academy award for best supporting actor. The thing is, he doesn't really actually act a whole lot. He looks frowny at the camera a bit, looks bewildered quite a lot, and has his orders either questioned or ignored constantly (…

Jobs (2013)

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Steve Jobs was a bit of an asshole. I'm guessing that is the spirit of the message that this movie is trying to get across. They hit this point many, many times, and it is hit pretty hard.

I was certain that Ashton was going to screw it up. As it turns out, the storytelling was its own worst enemy. Ashton lost weight, changed his cadence, and altered his walk and stance to fit into the role. Some argued that he was so into the role that he remained in character for extended periods between shots, before filming, and after filming. In fact, Woz was asked what he thought of the movie, and he was not fond of it. Ashton said some unpleasant things about Woz, and Woz very kindly said that Ashton must still have been in character.

Josh Gad played Woz in this movie, and he did a pretty good job. I think the main problem is that the character was written to the archetype of a nerd with no social skills. That just isn't Woz. Everything I've read about Woz and every interview or bit…

Don Jon (2013)

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It's nice to see Tony Danza getting work.

This movie appears to be a kind of parody of movies and a parody of real life. The movie takes the time to insult its watchers with direct statements about the people who watch movies and think that whatever is on the screen is real. It depicts movies as stupid, and there is one movie that they are 100% correct about.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote this, stars in it, and directed it. In order, he did a crappy job, did a passable job, and should never be allowed to do it again. His acting in here is just moderate. His character is supposed to be an asshole, and he hits it well enough - just a bit too over the top. He mugs for the camera at every damn opportunity, and it doesn't actually do anything for the development of the character or the improvement of a scene.

The directing of this movie is complete crap. I know his intent was to be edgy and different, but he winds up being disjointed and jerky while trying desperately to show that he…

Saranac Octoberfest

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The previous Saranac didn't impress me. However, Oktoberfests are really a chance for a brewery to take a step out of the norm to try something different. You add a spice or you add a new kind of malt, and your beer can taste fantastic. Let's see how this one fares.

It's a lightly hazy beer with a bright copper color. The head becomes a patchy, kind of gloppy hat on top of the beer. There is no lacing along the sides to speak of. The aroma is Near non-existent. I might go so far as to say it is a black hole of smell, sucking the smell in from around it. Seriously, I have no indication of what's in this beer. Okay, if I try really hard, I can smell sweet malt, but that might be down to the power of suggestion.

Actually sipping the beer tells me that it also lacks most taste. The little taste that is there is not a great one. It's got a lot more Earth than I had expected, and it has a metallic twang that is off-putting. I'd also say it has some grass in there. Th…

The Butler (2013)

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This sucker is Academy Award bait. Well, I think that's what they were thinking when they made it, but it didn't actually get a single nomination. It's the story of a butler who worked in the White House through many, many administrations. It's based on a true story, and it's almost true.

Let's speed through the setup. A child is born in the Jim Crow South where he learns to pick cotton. After a horrific event, he is brought into the house to be trained as a servant. Eventually, he learns what he needs to know, and he moves North. There, he learns even more, and serves better. All this is a setup for him being brought into the White House to serve presidents.

Forrest Whitaker plays the adult version of the main character. He plays a character who is required to be stoic most of the time. He refers to the two faces that butlers have to use - the one that is themselves, and the one that is for the people being served. That is exactly what we see in the parallel b…

Jubilee Nut Brown Ale

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I'm not usually a fan of nutty ales, but Lazy Magnolia changed my mind on them. Now, I only come in with a deep suspicion of them. After all, I have had more bad ones than good ones, but I'm perfectly willing to give them a try.

It's a dark brown ale, much as you might expect it to be. It has a rather short head that leaves very little covering the top of the beer when it dissipates. The aroma is predictably nutty with a bit of malt mixed in.

First sip is nutty, smoky, and a bit of caramel in there, but it is all surrounded by bitterness. I don't know where the bitter is coming from, as there are no hops to speak of in it. I can't say the initial trial has been a good one, but a good swig might change matters.

With a good, thick swig, I can find out the whole story on the beverage...

Tip-in is a bit sweet, then it turns to water, and then there is a bit of a brown-style caramel and smoky um... grass. Suddenly, it turns hard right into nuttiness and bitterness. I ca…

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

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Ever have a vacation that you really looked forward to, but when you got there it either rained or snowed or your car broke down or you were sick or you found yourself stranded in the middle of a radioactive zone with unseen entities trying to kill you and your friends while your guide disappeared to who knows where? Well, this is a story about one of those times.

A group of kids who you would normally expect in these movies is touring a bunch of places. I didn't follow how they went from England to Chernobyl in Russia, but let's just agree that they did. Also, let's agree that they, and the guide they wind up with, make terrible decisions, can't think tactically, don't believe in making plans at all, don't react well to unexpected situations, and are generally the worst people you could ever get stuck in the middle of nowhere with.

So, this rag-tag group of youngsters follows Uri, the local former Russian Special Forces guy, around the official checkpoint and …

Prisoners (2013)

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Hugh Jackman is a father whose daughter (along with her friend) is kidnapped, and Hugh feels that the police aren't doing enough to find her. Jake Gyllenhall is the detective in charge of the case who is, in fact, not doing enough to find her.

Hugh has always seemed to go out of his way to try to demonstrate his wide acting range, and this is just the latest in his attempt to be grumpy and brooding on screen. And grumpy and brooding and angry and shouting and crying and conflicted is his character. I had just seen The Wolverine before this movie, and I was surprised that he never found a single reason to take off his shirt in this movie. I was surprised and gratified.

Jake has gone for the slicked-back hair and neck tattoo at this point, and I don't know that it really works very well for the character or for humans in general. Add that to the fact that he always keeps his collar buttoned on his shirt without a tie, and he looks kind of ridiculous. There was something up with h…

Clear History (2013)

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If you didn't like Curb Your Enthusiasm, you won't like this movie.

This was produced by HBO with Larry David as the main character, and he pretty much plays Larry David in a new, more interesting situation. Well, I say more interesting, as I have watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it was kind of boring.

Larry (seen to the left as a bearded, hairy guy who you may not actually recognize as Larry David) is a marketing mastermind who is employed by a company that is going to produce a mainstream electric car. He lacks all the social graces that normal people have, just like he did in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and he complains about petty, pointless things, just like he did in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Jon Hamm plays the CEO of the electric car company who is intolerant of Larry's social issues and refuses to allow Larry to come back to work for the company after Larry resigns in anger over a dumb decision... that turns out well for the company, but not for Larry.

Larry's life falls…

Side Effects (2013)

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This was a better movie than I expected. I didn't actually read much about this before I saw it, so I expected it to be a drama that would typically be on Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. I mean, I looked at the cover, it's got Jude Law, and I don't remember a single ad for it. It only makes sense that it is going to be about a spurned lover and drugging people.

To my surprise, it is more about intrigue than anything. A woman commits a crime while on a drug that her doctor put her on, and the questions revolve around her doctor's culpability and if he had been maneuvered into giving her the medication in the first place.

I thought they really made the story compelling enough that this movie should have been bigger than it turned out to be. I'm not sure if superhero movies are just getting all of the ad dollars at this point or what, but this movie was decent enough to get a chunk of change for putting people in seats. Don't get me wrong, it's not breaking n…

2 Guns (2013)

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Ever wish we could get Lethal Weapon as a brand new movie with maybe Marky Mark and Denzel Washington? Kind of good news.

We have a buddy cop movie where both are not really cops and not really criminals, but they flagrantly break the law wherever necessary so they can follow their own personal sense of morality and questionable ethics.

Mark Wahlberg brings the situational humor much like he did in the great movie Three Kings. I am now struggling to try to review the movie without giving away all of the details. There are some slight twists and big turns that are really better if you don't know they are coming.

Mark does a very good job playing essentially a lunkhead for most of the movie. He's played it before, and he will likely play it again. He's not as big of an idiot in this movie as he was in Pain and Gain, but he's not a brain trust.

Denzel plays a toned-down version of the character he played in Training Day. I find his goatee to be off-putting, and I can't…

Man of Steel (2013)

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I was so disappointed with the previous reboot that I can't even tell you. I mean, I am a big Superman fan, and that was just bad - and I really, really like Kevin Spacey.

Batman of the 1970s was an anomaly. The fact is, he was always intended to be a dark and gritty superhero with a cruel and mean world that he was fighting against. Superman, by contrast, was often referred to as a Boy Scout, with the sun always shining and a positive outlook on life. As a consequence, they may have gone too far away from the train wreck of Superman Returns. So this movie is gritty and dark.

He's never really called the Man of Steel in the movie, and he's only called Superman like once or twice. He's mostly called either Clark or Kal throughout the movie.

I'm not sure I like moody Clark, but that's what this movie is giving me. As it is, Henry does a very good job with this new, unexpected character. He's introspective, grumpy, and not very good at protecting his secret ide…

Kona Longboard Island Lager

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I feared that this beverage from afar would be skunked. I got one of these before, and it was, but this was a gift from a friend, and I hope she had better luck. Then I read the bottle, and it appears that this beverage may actually originate from Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, or New Hampshire.

The beer is a very light yellow, and it has a bit of a haze going on. The head goes away almost completely. It's got slightly more than you would normally find on the top of a glass of apple juice. The aroma is faint, but it has a bit of staying power.  Malt and citrus slowly waft out of the top. Makes me thirsty.

First sip, and it's... a lager. I know, it's not surprising to find that, but it's very much a lager. It's like someone took a dozen lager recipes, averaged them out, and then made this beer. It's not a bad beer, but it lacks pretty much any personal character. Nothing makes it stand out. It's pretty much malt with a tiny bit of lemon and little else. It'…

Bottled Life: Nestlé's Business with Water (2012)

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This movie does not do what it intends to do.

Every documentary has a perspective that they want to get across and a point they want to make. This one wanted to demonize Nestlé and their business processes as they relate to water bottling and distribution. They wanted to show the company as an ethical and moral pariah, and I get why they want to do that. the problem is their execution.

They don't come out and say very much, even though this appears to be one man's journey. Instead, they assume the audience already knows that large corporations are evil, and the implication  is that Nestlé is doing terrible things, but conclusive evidence is never forthcoming. 

The best argument the film makers have against the company in this is that Nestlé said that they were committed to helping a town in Africa get water, and they have possibly not helped. It's unclear if they really have pulled out or not, as the documentarian didn't seem to do the necessary ground work to validat…

Bullet to the Head (2012)

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Sly Stallone can still make movies. I don't know why he would want to, but he has the resources to do so. I'm not sure if making movies even makes him money at this point, but I suspect it does not. That is, of course, unless he found some Uwe Boll method of getting paid to make crap movies no matter how bad they suck.

This one can go pretty well into the suck column. I mean, it's no Steven Seagal B-movie level of suck or even On Deadly Ground (a hit by Seagal standards with Michael Cain in tow) levels of suckitude. Still, it is not a great movie. It starts as a buddy gangster movie with Sly and his partner killing a guy. Then, Sly's partner gets killed. Time for.. REVENGE!

About that time Sly runs into visiting lawman Sung Kang. He's unwelcomed by the local authorities, and he doesn't play by the rules, so he partners up with the known killer, gangster, and lowlife to bring justice to the streets and help Sly avenge his partner. These two are bitter rivals thr…

Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Apple Pie Moonshine

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I don't normally take my beverage reviews very far outside of beer. I've had a few hard ciders, a shandy, some hard tea, and a hard root beer, but this isn't even close to beer. This is hard liquor. I've added ice to it because that was recommended by someone who once had it.

The color actually puts me in mind of apple pie itself. It is the color of the filling that gives the apples their cinnamon flavor. The aroma is cinnamon and pie crust - exactly what you would expect to find for something that is supposed to taste like apple pie. The crust comes off as a bit more stale than flaky, but I can work with that.

I'm only going to sip this. I'm not a hard liquor drinker, so I'm not going to attempt to gulp it. Does this make me less of a man? I hope not. I drink my beer like a man, and I don't need your validation, person on the internet.

So, my first sip is a good one, but it's more complex than I expected... to the point that I can't describe it…

Lone Survivor (2014)

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This purports to be a true story about a group of Navy Seals during Operation Red Wings where they were tasked with finding a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Things don't go all that great, let's just say that. The fact that the movie is called Lone Survivor might give you a hint that many people will die in the progression of the film.

Marky Mark plays a more serious version of the exact same guy he was in Three Kings. It's okay, as I really liked Three Kings, and this character is a good and reliable one. Mark plays it well, as he is really just in there with a fairly good ensemble cast, we don't get a whole lot from any single actor.

Once I saw Eric Bana in the movie, I kind of expected to see a lot of Eric Bana. When you spring for the big name, you tend to use the big name to excess, but Eric actually has a relatively small part in the movie, which works out okay.

The fact is, all of the guys in here did a great job with their respective roles. I honestly can't…

Yuengling Lager

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From America's oldest brewery comes a very traditional lager. I've had it many times over the years, and this particular bottle was a gift from my brother, so I decided to add it to the blog. I remember this beer being a good one, and I would alternate between it and Rolling Rock while I was in PA most of the time.

The beer is a clear copper color. The head mellows out to a very thin whiff of bubbles and a thin line around the rim. The aroma is strong - stronger than I remember. I mean, I can smell it from three feet away, and it was self-evident from the moment I opened the bottle. At first, I though it might have skunked, but the aroma isn't bad. It's kind of a spiky malt with the hops poking it in the side and an underlying bready, earthy smell.

First sip, and it has a distinct taste I remember all the sudden. It's a good enough taste, but it puts me in mind of what would happen if Bud successfully made a great beer - it means that it's just pretty good to th…

Parkland (2013)

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I was not alive when JFK was shot. I have heard that this moment was one that struck every person in the US to their core, allowing it to be a point in time where everyone knew exactly where they were when the event happened, but that doesn't actually convey an understanding of the thought processes and feelings that were associated with it.

I remember when Reagan was shot. It was a big deal, but I was too young to actually have an emotional response to it. Even if I had a response, I am told that it would not have been as dramatic as the JFK assassination was and the loss of innocence that it brought with it. Even 9-11 only brings with it a sinking feeling, but I am told that it just isn't the same.

This movie does a remarkable job of taking a public, historical event and making it personal. The JFK movies I had seen until now did nothing to really give a feeling of what was happening on the street, the chaos that ensued, and the lack of organization by the Secret Service and …

Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer

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I like root beer, and I hope this is exactly what I dream a hard root beer is like. I mean, root beer + actual fermentation should = fantastic. The addition of the bourbon really makes me fear for it, though.

It doesn't look as much like root beer as I suspected it would. It's about the right color, but the head isn't as thick, and it goes away a whole lot faster. The aroma is root beer with added malt. I'm still not sure what to expect, and I certainly hope that its better than other beers that have been aged in bourbon barrels.

First sip is just about the most horrible thing I've ever tasted. It has the root beer going on with bourbon added and some other crap tossed in the mix. I find the whole experience to be terrible, and I want it to stop. But, I haven't given the beverage my full attention. I'm going to have to give it a full swig, even though I am almost positive that this will not end well.

Tip-in is root beer. The middle brings a bit of carbonatio…

Darwin (2011)

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I am still not sure what this film is about. It is a small town in Death Valley where the people are very private and very secluded. This documentary tries to profile not just the town but the individuals inside the town. Incidentally, the town was named after a doctor who had no relation to Charles Darwin.

I'm confused about how the economy in this town works. The Postmaster for the town proudly declares he job as the best in town, as it is also the only one in town. So... the town income of $18,000 for all water is a main focal concern, but it's unclear where any of that comes from. Almost everyone in the town appears to be a writer or an artist or something which does not result in a substantial tangible income.

But, the larger concerns are periphery to the smaller concerns. We see the profile of the trans-gender man who moved to Darwin and has been generally well accepted with his partner. We learn his backstory from his mother, and she candidly talks about the difficultie…

Fort Collins Brewery Rocky Mountain IPA

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Hopefully, Rocky Mountain IPA has nothing to do with Rocky Mountain Oysters. As this hails from Colorado, the getting high state, I can't put anything past them, can I? I kid. Those kids on South Park seem to do just fine in that state.

The color is a hazy light caramel. It reminds me of a slightly more golden version of the little caramel cubes I used to eat when I was a kid. The head is light and stays around a little while. It sticks to the sides of the glass very well, and the top of the beer looks like a lunar landscape with uneven bubbles from one side to the next. The aroma is floral with heavy hops and light malt.

First sip has an unexpected sweetness to it. There are definitely hops, but the malt is heavy enough to cover it pretty solidly. It has a heavy floral presence through the whole thing, but that sweet cover is really nice.

<Significant Swig>

Tip-in is hops. This is really unusual for the IPAs I've had. They normally hit hops in the middle and ride the re…

Runner Runner (2013)

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This movie is about a math and statistics natural who figures out a way into the online gambling community and then has to deal with the life once there. As a result, the movie spends a lot of time and money demonstrating wealth for no reason other than conspicuous consumption.

Let's start with the obvious: Ben Affleck is not a great actor, and his attempt to be a Pittsburgh native (and Steelers fan) resulted in little more than mispronouncing Primanti's and desperately trying to bury his Boston accent. Better still is when he tries to speak Spanish; he slurs his words like a mush mouth to try to sound like he speaks it fluently. This isn't too different from the way he speaks lines of English, I guess. He slurs a lot.

The actual main character in the film is played by Justin Timberlake. He plays pretty much the same guy he always plays, and that is essentially Justin Timberlake. this time, he's been given math skills as a crutch, but he is still the naive yet worldl…

Green Man Porter

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I'm not going to keep boring people with my idea of a porter. I like beer, porter is a good style, and I like it. However, some are much better than others. I try as many different beers as I can, and I want to find better and better beers.

This one is a dark beer, and that is completely typical of a good porter. The head is fairly thick. It dissipates faster than I expected, but a decent amount sticks to the sides. The aroma is heavy, smoky malt - that's unusual for an ale, but normal for a porter.

A sip reveals a great taste. The malt is very smoky (almost burnt) and there is some bitter chocolate that rounds it out. It is very simple for a porter, but it works very well as a sip. I can only expect that a proper swig is going to bring even better tastiness.

Tip-in is smoky and spiky from the carbonation. The malt lends a bit of coffee and chocolate to the mix, but not a whole lot. The middle is smooth. It's not milky like a Guinness, but it's definitely a little crea…

The Conjuring (2013)

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The first thing you need to know about The Conjuring is that there is no point in the entire damn movie where anything is conjured. This movie isn't even about a story that eventually builds up to something that will be conjured, but some meddling kids stop it from conjuring so the world can go on. Nope. It's as if some movie executive said, "I know! We'll call it The Conjuring!" "Um, sir, there is no conjuring." "But it'll sell!" "Good idea, sir."

People move into house + house is haunted = scary movie.

This movie adds a bit to that basic equation by including the possession expert and his wife with their own child and past experience. They get more intimately involved in the spirit haunting the house when the creature doing the haunting turns its attention on them at one point. This is supposed to be based on a true story, and the movie goes out of its way to repeat that a few times, which means I in no way believe it.

The movi…

Lost Coast Brewery and Cafe Eight-Ball Stout

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I have a fear that this will be an imperial stout. I've never been a fan of imperial stouts, but I can't tell what kind this one is yet. Even if it is an imperial stout, it could very well be a good one - I don't want to judge before I've even tried it, that's for sure.

She's dark with reddish tones to her. The thick head is sticking very well to the sides. Lacing is very noticeable as the drink goes down. The aroma is strong enough to smell from three feet away while I sit here typing this. It smells of chocolate, barely, oatmeal, and some burned malt.So, it's an oatmeal stout - that is a good sign to start with.

First sip seems pretty good. It's not overflowing with flavor, but it is nice in a mellow sort of way. It is sweet, and I can definitely taste the oatmeal there, and the rest of it is kind of smooshed together in a bit of a watered down cocktail of beer essence. I'm not too disappointed, as I expect this to get better when I drink in a bi…